Gone Hollywood

By: Sally Mason

Rent A Husband: A Romantic Comedy


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Bobby Champagne and Cord McCann meet beneath the Hollywood sign when Bobby, blood boiling at her ex-husband’s latest outrage and foot flat to the floor of her Ford truck, totals Cord’s puny Japanese rental.

Now, Cord McCann may be a big time movie star, but the sign in question is not on that famous Los Angeles hillside, it’s on a dirt road leading to Hollywood, Texas (Population: 467 and falling) where Bobby “Don’t never call me Roberta!” Champagne is a failing cotton farmer.

To fully appreciate the irony, let’s rewind a couple of hours and see Cord waking in the pre-dawn dark, unsure for a moment where he is.

The giant face of a neon cowboy, leering at Cord through a gap in the drapes, gives the answer: he’s in a motel room a hundred miles west of Amarillo, Texas, on location for his latest movie.

Cord’s playing Tommy “T-Bone” Buford, an alcoholic singer-songwriter who scratches out a living by doing one-night gigs in small-town bars until his ex-wife, a country star on the wane, tracks him down to convince him to write new songs for her in an effort to boost her flagging career.

The country star, of course, is played by Cord’s own wife, the agelessly luminous Kat Mansfield.

Cord switches on a lamp, revealing the full glory of the Western-themed room with its peeling wood-panel wallpaper and garish throw rugs.

A room just like the one farther down the corridor, still cluttered with lights and camera gear, where T-Bone first rebuffs his ex-wife.

Kat had been outraged that they had to spend the night here after technical problems had caused the days’ shooting to go way over time, but even she’d been able to understand the folly of traveling back to their suite at the Savoy Hotel in Amarillo when they had to start work right here at the motel just after dawn.

Cord, exhausted after a day that had required of him to repeatedly sing a particularly maudlin country ballad, get into a bar fight and jump from a first-floor balcony in order to escape T-Bone’s loathsome ex (why the hell was he still fool—and vain—enough to do most of his own stunts?) fell asleep early, vaguely remembering Kat saying that she was going to join the crew for “just one little drinkie.”

“Kat?” Cord says.

No reply.

He goes into the bathroom, blinking at himself in the mirror when he switches on the buzzing florescent.

He looks like a broken-down juice head.

His dark hair is long and greasy, with white streaks artfully added by the make-up department.

A thick black beard, shot with gray (thanks again to make-up) covers his leading-man features.

Cord is forty-one, but the hair and beard make him look a decade older.

As the movie progresses, when the hero is seduced by money and the promise of fame and heads off to Nashville with his ex-wife, the beard will go, the hair will be trimmed and the movie will end with a handsome and rejuvenated T-Bone turning his back on his ex and finding love in the arms of her twenty-something back-up singer.

Cord isn’t looking forward to being shorn and shaved.

He’s grown attached to the beard and the hair and anonymity they lend him.

Wandering back into the bedroom he calls out again: “Kat?”

Has she gone off early to wardrobe and make-up?

As Cord parts the curtains and steps out onto the balcony that overlooks the motor court, the door to a room on the ground level opens and light spills out, and for a moment a couple is silhouetted in the doorway.

A couple locked in a passionate embrace.

When Kat Mansfield—she of the tumbling raven tresses—drags herself from the arms of a half-naked stunt man barely in his twenties and hurries across the parking lot, Cord slips back into the room, kills the lamp and slides into the bed, a sick feeling in his gut.

By the time the door opens and his wife creeps in, he’s pretending to be sleep.

In a moment he hears the sound of the shower.

Cord lies in the gloom, fighting hurt and rage.

It’s happening again.

Kat’s doing what she promised she would never again do.

Cord, despite the carefully placed tabloid stories, is boringly monogamous.

A one-woman man.

Unfailingly faithful to his wife of twenty years.

A wife whose taste for stunt men, grips and camera assistants is legendary in the movie industry.

Whose appetite for men half her age seemed to double when she turned forty a year ago.

They split up around that birthday—Cord, finally refusing to be the eternal cuckold, moving out of the mansion on Mulholland Drive, taking a suite at the Château Marmont.

After a month apart Kat asked him to meet her poolside one afternoon and he agreed.

Truth was, he missed her like poison.

When Cord got down to the pool Kat was waiting for him, dressed in jeans and boots. She’d chosen a table carefully: positioned perfectly for the paparazzi to get flattering shots, in the shade but with enough backlight to halo her hair.

She was sitting with her best profile—her left—toward the lurking photographers.

When Kat stood and hugged him, real tears flowed from beneath the huge Bulgari sunglasses she wore.

She sat and dabbed at her eyes, not disturbing her flawless make-up.

“Kat,” he said.

“Cord, darling.”

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